Prime Minister Petr Nečas visited Northern Bohemia on Monday where the local authorities have been struggling to deal with growing racial tension and a wave of anti-Romany sentiment. Mr Nečas visited ghettos, talked to local inhabitants and debated specific measures with community representatives. In Nový Bor he thanked the locals for showing restraint in their protests and not supporting extremist groupings which have tried to use the crisis for their own ends. Extremist demonstrations and public gatherings have been taking place in the region since August, when several violent, apparently racially-motivated conflicts occurred. Local forums held to discuss the situation have criticised negligence on the part of the police and town halls and a liberal social welfare system.
The cabinet is to meet on Wednesday to discuss growing racial tension in the north of the country, Romany ghettos and social exclusion. Ministers are expected to debate a comprehensive strategy aimed at fighting social exclusion of Romanies in the spheres of education, housing, employment, health care and security. According to available statistics there are some 400 Romany ghettoes around the country with an estimated 80.000 inhabitants. The vast majority of adults living in them are jobless. A rise in racially motivated crime in the north of the country in recent weeks has escalated tension between the majority population and the Romany minority with calls for their eviction.
Labour and Social Affairs Minister Jaromír Drabek on Monday revealed some of the measures aimed at alleviating ethnic tension in the north of the country. At a press conference in the town of Rumburk he said that that in future welfare benefits would only be paid out to people who have permanent residence in the given region and that after a certain period of time people on welfare would have to enrol for community service. A hundred more community jobs are being established in the north. Parents who do not send their children to school would not be eligible for state support.
A thirty-four- year- old Romany man with a machete threatened people in a bar in Varnsdorf, north of Prague, late on Sunday night. Witnesses say the man barged in, shouted insults and threatened to eliminate everyone in the place. He left as the owner called the police and was apprehended shortly after. The incident reflects growing ethnic tension in the north where a recent attack on a bar in the town of Nový Bor ended in bloodshed and serious injuries. There is a heightened police presence in the area.
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has said that more personnel changes should follow at the country’s power utility ČEZ in the wake of a change of guard at the top post. The prime minister threw fresh light on CEO Martin Roman’s unexpected resignation last week saying that he was dissatisfied with Mr. Roman’s performance in office and had made it clear he would not be renewing his contract next year. The prime minister said he was not happy with the outcome of the power utility’s foreign acquisitions. Mr. Roman has been replaced by the second in command Daniel Benes as chief executive manager.
A Czech research team from the Institute of Hereditary Metabolic Disorders at the Medical Faculty of Charles University in Prague has reportedly uncovered the cause of the Kufs disease. At a press briefing in Prague on Monday scientists said a mutation of the DNAJC5 gene was behind the incurable brain disease. The disease is a defect of the metabolism of fats and proteins that is manifested only in adult age. The patients´ condition gradually worsens. They suffer from spasms, mobility disorders, paralysis and dementia. This particular research team has had previous successes in detecting genes responsible for some diseases of the eyes and kidneys.
A tram driver was killed in a collision of two trams on Prague’s Plzenská street early on Monday. No one else was injured in the accident. The collision occurred shortly after six am when the second tram drawing into a station failed to brake properly and ploughed into a stationary vehicle. The driver failed to leave the cabin in time and was trapped in the wreckage. He succumbed to his injuries on the spot. The five passengers riding on the tram were uninjured. The tram route was closed for the entire morning. The damage is being estimated at 10 million crowns.
Police are investigating a robbery in which masked men attacked and robbed a money transport van carrying an unspecified amount of cash. The robbery took place near a Česká Sporitelna bank outlet in Karlovy Vary. It is not clear if anyone was injured in this incident. The police have asked possible witnesses to provide any information they may have regarding the case.
Slovak police have arrested a Ukrainian convict on the run who was sentenced to13 years for murder by a Czech court in 1996. The man escaped shortly after and was on the run for 15 years. He was arrested on an Interpol warrant near the Slovak-Ukrainian border. The Czech authorities will request his extradition.
Almost half of Czechs do not plan to use private pension funds, which are to be established within the government’s pension reform, according to a poll conducted by the Millward Brown agency and released in today's daily Lidove noviny. Forty-nine percent of respondents said they preferred to rely on state pension funds. Over 22 percent plan less risky investments with a lower profit and 17.7 percent prefer more profitable, but also more risky alternatives, the daily writes.